PARIS — French unions vowed to continue demonstrations next week amid another day of protests Tuesday against French President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial pension reforms — the 10th general strike this year.
Clashes broke out between small groups of protesters and police, especially in Paris, where some people also ransacked a supermarket. But the number of protesters also decreased almost everywhere in the country compared to last week, according to estimates by both French authorities and unions. Around 730,000 people protested in total, compared to more than 1 million last Thursday, according to the French interior ministry. Estimates by trade union CGT, meanwhile, calculated that the number of protesters declined from 3.5 million last week to approximately 2 million on Tuesday.
But Parisians can expect some relief for their noses Wednesday when garbage collectors are set to resume work after weeks of a strike that has left piles of rubbish stacked along streets.
The protests have been running since the beginning of the year, prompted by Macron’s plans to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 and increase the level of contributions required to receive a full pension. Discontent mounted earlier this month when the government decided to force the measures through parliament without a vote, raising concerns that the protests could turn into a broader anti-government movement like the Yellow Jackets, which brought months of unrest during Macron’s first term in office.
The strikes on Tuesday hit sectors including public transport and schools as well as energy plants and oil refineries, causing fuel shortages.
But Macron’s administration has not shown signs that it will revise the reforms. Government spokesperson Olivier Véran on Tuesday rejected a proposal by the CFDT union to put the measures on ice and find a mediator to resolve the situation.
But Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has invited union representatives to meet at the beginning of next week for talks, according to CFDT leader Laurent Berger.
“The anger begins to rise, even among the most peaceful protesters,” Berger told broadcaster TMC Tuesday evening after protests died down.
Major trade unions are still planning a further day of strikes and protests next Thursday.